The title of this post is borrowed from a quote in an article written by AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. In that interview she objects to the often cited phrases '50 is the new 30' and '60 is the new 40'. She says 50 is the new 50, meaning we are redefining what it means to age.
I like that idea, somewhat reluctantly.
Honestly, I'm aging well. People are shocked when they learn my real age
because I look and act ten to fifteen years younger that the actual number.
More accurately, I look and act younger than the popular perception of people
who are my age. And as you can tell by the lack of numerals in this paragraph,
I am still reluctant to say the number in public.
The phrase 'over the hill' appears in many 50th birthday cards. We all laugh at
that but do boomers feel that the best years are behind us after turning 50? I
had two opposing feelings on my 50th birthday. My then wife surprised me by
putting fifty candles on the cake. She lit them all and set off the smoke
detector as she brought the cake down to the basement rec room. We laughed.
Those were better days in the marriage. That same day was disconcerting for me
because for the first time ever I felt old. Fifty. My god that's old.
Ten years later my birthday was just another Saturday. I don't even remember
it. I know it was Saturday because I just now googled it. Times were not so
good in the marriage and not long after that milestone I was on my own again.
So now, at an age when old high school friends and former coworkers are
retiring, my career is soaring. My social life and love life are the best
they've ever been. I'm not over the hill, I'm on top of the mountain. I think
aging is more about perception than it is about a number, more about personal
self-perception than societal expectations.
Regular visitors to this blog know I'm more of a 'glass is half full' guy than
a 'glass is half empty' guy. But that attitude is realistic. Attitude guides
many aspects of life. You are what you think. I accept limitations but I refuse
to be stopped by them. I could be bitter that I was diagnosed with multiple
sclerosis after age 60. I could regret being fired from three of the seven jobs
I've had in my media career. I could feel stupid and insecure that I've been
married three times and ended all three. Or I can choose to celebrate my
otherwise good health. Fuck MS; I walk to the apartment fitness room every day
and work out. I can say that more than a year after my third marriage died I
found true love. I can pat myself on the back because I've kept my current job
for twenty four years and I'm keeping up with coworkers who are half my age.
I'm not always happy about aging but I refuse to let the number I get when I
subtract my birth year from the current year get in the way of living a good
life. You shouldn't either.
Over the hill? On top of the mountain? The choice is yours. I've made
mine and the view up here is pretty good.